In honor of International Women’s Day, we invite you on a journey to West Africa to meet community health workers who are passionate about women’s health. Particularly in developing countries, empowering women has proven to benefit the entire community. Healthy women not only contribute to the local economy, but they create more stable families by reinforcing good health care for themselves and each family member.

Jhpiego, an established leader in implementing programs to improve women’s health, trains frontline workers in countries fighting diseases like malaria, which is 100 percent preventable but still remains a serious public health issue. Founded in 1974 and supported by ExxonMobil, the organization has never veered from its mission to answer the question: How can we make lifesaving services available to people who need them all over the world?

Below are several stories of on-the-ground Jhpiego-supported health care workers in Chad and Cameroon and members of the community they’ve reached: Sarah Mamadjibeye, Marie Noelle Ngombok, Bruno Ndoum and Celestine Rimhigudé. Each set of four images illustrates how the efforts to address the health needs of women can make a difference in communities at large.

Sarah Mamadjibeye

Mamadjibeye is a community health worker and aspiring nurse in Miandoum, Chad. The 26-year-old daughter of a village chief is juggling raising two children while working on her family’s peanut farm and studying for her nursing school entrance exams. She is helping educate women and their families in her village about malaria and other health issues.

Bed net lesson

Mamadjibeye shows 13-year-old Marie Woelle Maiden how to properly attach a bed net. “My duty as a community health worker is to enlighten the public about malaria, the proper use of mosquito nets and how to keep their environment clean and free of standing water,” she says. In 2016, Jhpiego empowered 98 community health workers in Chad with the skills and supplies—from educational flipcharts to uniforms—to make a difference in their own communities.

House visit

Mamadjibeye makes a visit to Norah Binodji to talk about malaria prevention. “Thanks to her advice, I now use my mosquito net properly and I make sure my little daughter and I always sleep under it,” Binodji says. “I’m a farmer, and when you have malaria, you cannot go to the farm or carry out any other activity.” Thanks to Mamadjibeye, women and families like Binodji’s are learning how to avoid contracting the disease.

Mamadjibeye and her daughter Prudence

For Mamadjibeye, being a community health volunteer helps prepare her for dealing with future patients. “I will be going back to high school this year, and I’m saving money to register for the entrance examination into nursing school after obtaining my high school diploma,” she says.

Marie Noelle Ngombok

Ngombok is head nurse of the pediatric unit at the Kribi District Hospital in Cameroon. She already had an eye well trained to watch for the symptoms of malaria, especially among children; as many as 40 are brought into her care each month. After participating in a training program sponsored by ExxonMobil, she now has proven clinical methods by which to diagnose and treat the disease and to refer sick children not suffering from malaria to proper treatments for their illnesses.

Free health care

One of Nurse Ngombok’s challenges is educating mothers on the importance—and lower cost—of bringing their children into the clinic promptly. Gaelle (above) delayed bringing in her baby, who developed such a severe case of malaria that Nurse Ngombok ordered a blood transfusion. She didn’t know that malaria medication for children under 5 is free at public health facilities. Gaelle’s baby was discharged malaria-free thanks to Ngombok’s dedication and high-quality care.

Good prevention and proper treatment practices

Several tools, such as raising awareness, using long-lasting, insecticide-treated bed nets, indoor residual spraying, rapid diagnostics and treatments, have been key in reducing the number of malaria cases and deaths. “The training enabled me to make a difference,” says Nurse Ngombok. “Prior to my training, malaria management was not done well at the service level. Many cases were treated without a diagnostic test and protocols for treatment were not respected.” Today, she says, they manage malaria cases well.

Jacqueline Amgou, granddaughter Cecile

“My best moments are when patients who have come in mostly in a critical condition are discharged and leave with a smile after healing,” Nurse Ngombok says.

Jeanne Ngo Ibock and daughter Belize Ibock

In Kribi, Cameroon, Jeanne Ngo Ibock (left) worried that her daughter Belize (right) was suffering from malaria. Jeanne lived far from a health clinic and worried that they wouldn’t be able to afford malaria medicine from a doctor. Instead, Jeanne bought medicine that didn’t seem to help. Jhpiego is working to ensure that women use quality antimalarial medicine to avoid substandard treatment.

Malaria presentation by Bruno Ndoum

Jeanne attended an educational talk on malaria prevention at a community member’s home. There, she met Bruno Ndoum, a community health volunteer charged with fighting malaria in her community. Jeanne asked him to visit her home and test her daughter for malaria.

Bruno Ndoum and Belize Ibock

Ndoum tested Belize for malaria using a rapid diagnostic test. He confirmed Jeanne’s suspicions, diagnosing Belize with malaria, and gave the family the right medications, advising them that the medicine they had purchased in the market was likely fake.

Avoiding mosquitos

While there, Ndoum shared with them the importance of sleeping under a treated bed net. In Jhpiego’s ExxonMobil-supported work in Cameroon, more than 8,000 women and children have received home visits, referrals or education sessions from community health volunteers like Bruno. Today, Jeanne’s daughter Belize is malaria-free.

Nadjilmengar Ngarbeye and his daughter

Nadjilmengar Ngarbeye holds his daughter, who is less than a year old, in Doba, Chad. Ngarbeye brought her straight to Doba Hospital as soon as he realized she was getting ill. He suspected malaria.

Nurse Celestine Rimhigudé

Thanks to his quick action, Nurse Rimhigudé (left) could provide timely treatment to help her young patient recover. ExxonMobil supports Doba Hospital and 116 other health facilities to ensure that health providers like Rimhigudé are correctly diagnosing and treating malaria according to national guidelines.

Student nurse Eliane Madjihoroum

Student nurse Eliane Madjihoroum (center) helps serve a young boy suffering severe anemia, a life-threatening complication of malaria. Nurse Rimhigudé prepares a blood transfusion to help treat the young boy while his mother (left) holds him.

Practicing good health

Thanks to the efforts of health workers like Nurse Rimhigudé, almost half of the women in Jhpiego project areas are receiving the correct amount of intermittent preventive treatment in pregnancy, a true lifesaver for women and their babies. “I chose to study health because I want people to be in peace and in good health,” says Rimhigudé, “not only for my patients, but for my own family, too.”

Above header image: Community health worker Nurse Gueririm with patients in Chad

All images credit: Karen Kasmauski/Jhpiego


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